Erna Berger (19 October 1900 – 14 June 1990) was a German lyric coloratura soprano. She was best known for her Queen of the Night and her Konstanze.
Erna Berger German soprano 1900-1990
Born in Dresden, Germany, Berger spent some years as a child in India and South America. She lived there later on as well, working as a clerk and a piano teacher, before borrowing enough money for the trip back to Germany. At age 26, she secured a position as a soubrette soprano at the Semperoper in Dresden and had her first success as Hannele in Paul Graener’s opera Hanneles Himmelfahrt based on Gerhart Hauptmann’s play The Assumption of Hannele. She later held leading positions at the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin State Opera, and the Deutsche Oper Berlin. She gave concerts in Japan, the United States, and Australia.
Her discography features complete recordings of Die Zauberflöte (as the Queen of Night, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, 1937–38, for EMI), and Rigoletto, with Jan Peerce and Leonard Warren, conducted by Renato Cellini (1950) which was the first complete opera recording (with a few minor cuts) made in the United States by RCA Victor for commercial release on the then-new LP format.
Berger appeared at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1949/50 and 1950/51 seasons, in Der Rosenkavalier (opposite Eleanor Steber and Risë Stevens, conducted by Fritz Reiner and directed by Herbert Graf), Rigoletto (with Warren, then Enzo Mascherini), Die Zauberflöte, and Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Giuseppe Valdengo). She also sang Woglinde and the Waldvogel in Der Ring des Nibelungen, with Kirsten Flagstad and Helen Traubel alternating as Brünnhilde.
She sang the role of Zerlina in the 1954 Salzburg Festival production of Don Giovanni conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, released on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon. As an interpreter of Lieder, she often performed with the German pianist Sebastian Peschko.
Later years and death
At 60 years of age, she left the stage and taught as a professor in Hamburg and Essen, where she died in 1990, aged 89. She was buried at the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna. In 1992, the Bästleinstraße in Dresden was renamed the Erna-Berger-Straße in her honour.
- Schlußakkord (1936)
- Ave Maria (1936, staging of La traviata)
- Maria Ilona (1939)
- Opera Ball (1939, vocals)
- Falstaff in Vienna (1940)
- The Swedish Nightingale (1941, vocals)
- Whom the Gods Love (1942)
- Immensee (1943, vocals)
- The Marriage of Figaro (1949, vocals for Susanna)
- Don Giovanni (1955, directed by Paul Czinner, as Zerlina)
- Erna Berger: Die singende Botschafterin [The Singing Ambassadress], by Karla Höcker, Rembrandt Verlag, 1961.